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What is CSS used for?

If you’re interested in web design or development, you have at some point probably asked yourself, "What is CSS used for?" This blog will answer that question and give you some background on why you might want to learn how to use it.

What is CSS used for and why do we need it?

Let’s start at the beginning. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it’s used to add style to a web page by dictating how a site is displayed on a browser. CSS is unique in that it doesn’t create any new elements, like HTML or JavaScript. Instead, it’s a language used to style HTML elements.

CSS is responsible for the text style, size, positioning, color, and more on a website. It’s also what controls how a website’s style shifts between desktop and mobile versions. Without CSS, websites would look pretty boring.

Advantages of CSS

There are many reasons why you’ll want to use CSS in web design. First, CSS can save you time. Once you have a style sheet created, you can use it multiple times. The best practice for CSS is to save it as a .css file, separate from your .html file. The style sheet can then be linked to your HTML file. When you find a style that you like, you can apply it to as many pages as you’d like.

Second, CSS is efficient. Only a few lines of code are required to dictate the style on a webpage, which speeds up loading time and keeps files relatively lightweight. Lastly, it’s easy for users to learn and update, which makes global changes to style simple and quick.

Types of CSS

There are three types of CSS styling: internal, external, and inline. The types of CSS refer to how CSS is implemented. Internal CSS, which is also called embedded CSS, is the practice of inserting the CSS code in the <head> section of the HTML document that defines a specific website. While an internal style sheet is a nice way to have all the code in one file, it makes that file rather large and doesn’t allow for style changes to be applied globally across different web pages. You can see that if you wanted to make a change to an element across a few pages, it would be easy to make a mistake when you use an internal style sheet.

The second type of CSS is external, where the style sheet is kept in a file separate from the HTML code. As we discussed earlier, this is the preferred type of CSS for many developers and companies. If you or your team is working on a large project or has a large company website, standardization of style will be important. Keeping the style separate from the structure means that global style changes can be done efficiently and more accurately than with an internal style sheet.

The final type, inline CSS, is where the CSS code is applied within the HTML code but is not globally applied to a particular element. Instead, the CSS code is used within the HTML code to alter a single element. Generally speaking, inline CSS isn’t recommended. But as you’re developing a web page, and you want to modify a single element, you could use inline CSS. In another scenario, if there’s a bug on a website and you need to fix it fast, inline CSS could be the ticket — that is, until you can go back in later and fix the issue more globally with external CSS.

How to learn CSS

We’d recommend you learn HTML first and then check out a course on learning CSS. Because CSS is used with HTML in various ways, a solid understanding of HTML is required before you can jump straight into altering HTML elements using CSS. If you’re just starting out with both CSS and HTML, you can even take a learning path tailored to both. HTML is used to structure the website, and then CSS is layered over top for style. With both skills, you’ll have the full suite required to get down to work designing and building websites.

If you’re interested in website design or looking to transition into a career as a front-end engineer, you may want to go a little more in-depth with your learning. For example, the front-end engineer career path includes an introduction to CSS and a separate course on transitions and animations using CSS.

Don’t forget that putting your new skills to work by building your own website or improving the one you’ve already created is a great way to learn. The CSS courses on Codecademy allow you to test out your new skills and apply what you’ve learned in a realistic setting. After all, you want to get down to designing and enjoying the creative process, both while you learn and in your career.

Get more practice, more projects, and more guidance.

Kattie Thorndyke

Kattie Thorndyke

Kattie Thorndyke is a professional engineer who worked exclusively in motorsport and automotive engineering utilizing OpenFOAM open source CFD software to optimize full-vehicle aerodynamics.

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